What is music rotation?
Music Rotation is the art or science (some
call it a
"black art") of scheduling music, so that a particular sound, mood,
ambience and texture is created, without tiring or irritating the
listener. (see wikipedia
article on music rotation).
This technique is used typically by Radio stations to create their
"sound". It's one of the elements of the "secret sauce" which makes a
radio station stand out from the rest and keep listeners tuned-in,
which in-turn leads to more advertising revenue.
Traditionally, a programme director would use roladex cards to rotate
the radio station's music library, using different stacks (or
categories). The music selection would be made based on a clock which
represents a typical hour of programming on the station. Any violations
of the station's clock or policy rules would be resolved by hand. This
was, needless to say, a laborious task and could take many hours/days
to produce a playlist for the coming week.
The arrival of the Personal Computer and music scheduling software
radically changed the way programme directors did their work. At first.
most of them didn't trust the new systems completely and checked the
generated schedules by hand (how would they fill their days,
A new revolution
The original systems ran on, by today's standards, very slow hardware
with a small amount of memory (typically an Intel 286 with 4-16MB RAM).
The music scheduling software packages did amazing things with the
limited resources and carved a way forward. They were also very
expensive, not only in original purchase costs, but also in day-to-day
running thanks to the yearly licence model.
Music Rotation has changed a lot since then. Radio Stations are looking
for more outlets for their products, including themed radio channels
via DAB and DVB-T/C/S (Freeview, satelite, cable, etc..). The challenge
to provide stimulating schedules and create a niche format, which keep
the listener enagaged, for all of these channels is getting
more and more difficult.
In spite of the changes in the marketplace and the multi-channel
environment, it's hard to believe that some of the older music
scheduling software packages, running in DOS, are still being used
There have been some amazing advances in radio studios in the last 10
years. Radio automation systems, like Dalet,
PC Radio, Netia, RCS and others,
have revolutionised the way radio stations work and have almost
completely replaced older means of getting music, jingles and
commercials on the air. Nowadays, the PC, databases, fileshares and
network infrastructure is more important that a box of CD's and carts
being carried into the studio under the presenter's arm.
Radio stations aren't the only companies making use of this technology
shift. Anywhere you hear music publicly (shopping malls, supermarkets,
clothes shops, train/metro stations, bars, restaruants, etc..), there
is generally a music selection and playout system selecting and
controlling what you listen to. Current music selection systems are
much too expensive and/or too "clunky" to be used for these
The way forward
Many of the older music selection systems are good in their own right,
but are very insular, have many limitations in today's multi-outlet
climate and are much too expensive. What is needed is a scalable,
modular, affordable, reliable and modern music selection system which
can support a number of different users and themed channels or music
already being tested by a number of Radio stations and will soon be
released for general use. If you would like to get involved and learn
more, drop us a line via the contact page or
start a discussion in the forum.